Bengaluru Mayoral Polls: Much at Stake as Discord & Confusion May Foil K'taka BJP's Desire to Win Post
Even as the BJP expressed its unwillingness to elect a mayor anytime soon, the city’s regional commissioner said he was duty-bound to hold the election at the earliest.
Bengaluru: With Gangambike Mallikarjun of the Congress having completed her one-year term as Bengaluru Mayor on Saturday, concerns have been raised in several quarters over how soon the city, considered the nation’s information technology (IT) capital, would get a new chief.
Even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expressed its unwillingness to elect a mayor anytime soon, the city’s regional commissioner said on Monday evening that there was no need to seek the state government’s approval on the matter and he was duty-bound to hold the election on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa told reporters during a visit to his hometown Shimoga that mayoral election will be postponed. Most of the BJP leaders too had assumed the same, but Regional Commissioner Harsh Gupta’s missive to the Urban Development department on the matter has stunned many in the party.
Caught unawares, BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel called a meeting late on Monday evening to finalise the candidate. Apprehending trouble, the city police commissioner ordered prohibitory orders under Section 144 around the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) headquarters on Tuesday — a first time perhaps for the city to witness election for the civic body chief’s post under such restrictions.
The ruling camp’s strategists who had been assigned the task of getting together enough numbers to install one of its corporators as the mayor were caught in a bind. The party has been unable to reach a consensus on the choice of its mayoral candidate with Kateel and Yediyurappa backing different corporators.
While the state unit president wants Muneendra Kumar, a north Bengaluru corporator, as the mayor, the chief minister backs one Padmanabha Reddy for the post. Most of Yediyurappa’s loyalists suspect Reddy of indulging in anti-party activities.
When asked about the possibility of rescheduling the election, Gupta said, “I have also informed (those concerned) that the regional commissioner has been made the statutory authority to conduct elections by the government as soon as the terms of mayors and deputy mayors come to an end. Here, the term got over on September 27. We have to conduct elections as early as possible. Hence, we’re complying with the directions and obeying the high court order (in this regard),” Gupta told News18.
The mayor and deputy mayor is elected by the BBMP Council that consists of corporators of 198 wards of Bengaluru, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha parliamentarians, members of legislative council and assembly who have voting rights in Bengaluru.
At present, the strength of the council is 257. The Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) would field a joint candidate and their total strength would be at 125. The BJP too has 125 members in the council. Both the camps are four short of the magic number — 129. In addition, there are seven independent corporators who won in the BBMP elections held four years ago.
Though the BJP seemed to be confident of winning the mayoral election after five Congress-JD(S) MLAs were disqualified, the party’s sudden move to postpone the same raised many an eyebrow.
"This government is scared of losing the election because of so much of internal issues and rift in the BJP," said Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao, who is also a city MLA and hence, a voter in the council.
"The BJP is trying to postpone it, because it doesn’t have a majority. Or maybe because there is so much difference among the party leaders that they have no confidence to contest this election,” Rao added.
The BJP is pinning its hopes on the support of the independents, besides those corporators who support the disqualified MLAs. Four of the 17 disqualified MLAs who quit their MLA posts in July and brought down the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka are from Bengaluru — they have the support of seven/eight corporators who are expected to abstain from the election, thus helping the BJP.
"We may have different opinions, but we will always reach an agreement. We’ll go on to work together. We do have a lot of support from other parties. They are very confident that we're going to win this election,” said Ashwath Narayan, Deputy Chief Minister and one of the BJP’s strategists for this election.
However, many within the BJP accepted that the unseemly cold war between Kateel and Yediyurappa is creating a discord among cadres and local leaders, something the Congress could take advantage of. Hence, an interesting mayoral battle awaits Bengaluru on Tuesday.
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